C2C Training,Hiking

El Cajon Mountain Hike Review

Finally! I feel like I had been wanting to hike this trail forever and for whatever reason, it has been cancelled a multiple of times. This past weekend I finally made it to the top and I’m happy to give you the deets of how it went down in this El Cajon Mountain Hike Review post! This is the first hike review of the series I plan to create for my Cactus to Clouds training!

El Cajon Mountain Hike Statistics

Trail Distance10.6 milesMy Pace25:42 mile
Summit Elevation3,648 feetMy Duration4:57:03
Elevation Gain3,576 feetWater Consumed1 Liter
My Distance11.6 milesDate | Time Hiked2/22/19 | 7:40 am
My Elevation3655 feetTemperature47 Start | 54 Finish
The nitty gritty details …

El Cajon Mountain Overview

El Cajon Mountain is near Lakeside, and only about 30 minutes from downtown San Diego. While it’s only an extra 10 minutes farther away than Mission Trails, it feel like you’re in a completely different state, country and this is likely stretching it, but there are parts that are almost out of this world. At one point I looked out and I felt like it could be the backdrop to an episode of Game of Thrones and a flock of dragons could fly over any any minute.

It’s HARD. It’s long, up hill in both directions and offers little to no shade which would make it nearly unbearable in the warmer months. The trail is wide in most parts and very easy to follow. I tend to get lost easily and if I didn’t have the All Trails App and the ability to see my blue location dot tracking on my red tail line who knows where I would end up. On a tricky trail, I have to check it all-the-time. In this case, I think we only got off track once and it was towards the top for the last 1/2 mile scramble to the summit.


That last 1/2 mile to the summit is not just trickier to navigate, it’s also the most technically challenging portion of the trail. Towards the very top, they have little green markers which are awesome and helpful in finding the summit. When you get to the top, the panoramic views are worth it. I don’t often stop to chill at the top of a mountain, but in this case we sat, ate our sandwiches, enjoyed the breeze, snapped our iconic pics, relished in the victory and prepared for the equally challenging trip down.

Dogs are welcome on this trail, but it’s so long and can get so hot, I feel bad for the little guys. If you do bring your dog, be sure to pack lots and lots of water for yourself and your pup. I agree with the AllTrails reviews I read. This trail is not for the casual hiker and should be planned for and you should be in pretty good shape, with good shoes and be at least a fairly experienced hiker to check this one off your list.

The Best Part Of The El Cajon Mountain Hike

I really did enjoy this this hike, and here is a few reasons why…

  • Because this trail is so easy to follow, I didn’t spend a lot of energy wondering if we were lost.
  • I loved how challenging it was and how the terrain changed. This is a tough one so you really do come out of it feeling accomplished.
  • We hiked during the rainy season so the streams were were active and flowing. The sound of running water while hiking is so soothing.
  • The views are lovely.
  • There is the nicest trail bathroom you will EVER see about 1/2 mile up the trail head. It’s clean and well stocked with toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
El Cajon Mountain HIke
You’re either going up, or you’re going down … both ways.

What I Didn’t Love About The El Cajon Mountain Hike

I doubt any trail is perfect, here are the things I didn’t think were so awesome:

  • We hiked just a few days after the rain, there were some portions of the trail that were super muddy and very slippery. There was also some light snow along the edges so many parts were icy — adding to the slippery effect which really slowed us down. But we just took our time took one step at a time and were were fine.
  • There is so little shade and it’s so steep in areas, I think I would absolutely hate this hike in the heat. I would not hike it if it was even over mid-60s.
El Cajon Mountain Hike Review El Capitan Trail
Just cruising down El Capitan…

What I’d do Differently Next Time I Hike El Cajon Mountain

It’s been so cold, I’ve been dressing for winter hiking. I didn’t pack a visor and I also only applied a casual layer of sunscreen early in the morning. The sun came out and what I had on, clearly sweat off. I’m currently rocking a sunburn and some great lines from my camel back.

This is also the first hike where poles finally made sense to me! People always say, “they really help on the way down” which I never really understood. After this steep, slippery hike — I GET it! I really wished I’d had a set of poles on the way down to hold me steady.

El Cajon Mountain Hike Review buddy
Hike buddy Lindsey for the day — she is AWESOME!

Fueling For the El Cajon Mountain Hike

FOOD: I prepared for this hike like it was an “event.” I ate well and went to be early the night before (and held off on the wine). In the morning I had two pieces of toast with butter and coffee with creamer. I also packed up a savory sandwich with avocado, tomato, cheese and a egg I fried that morning and also some Chocolate Walnut Mighty Muffins from my Clean & Colorful Kitchen.

It is so rewarding to have a savory sandwich at the top of a mountain and I do like having some easy to grab snacks if I get hungry heading up or down the trail. (FYI — I eat a lot for my size).

WATER: I also filled my camel back with the full 1.5L because that’s all it will hold. I know I need to get a larger one for these longer hikes. All the reviews said to bring at least 2L of water, but I am like a camel. I just don’t drink much water, plus we didn’t have a hot day so I only used a little over 1L for the entire 5 hours.

El Cajon Mountain Hike Final Thoughts

I am so glad I did this hike and I am so grateful to Lindsey for finally helping me get to the top. It’s a great challenge, a lovely view and an easy trail to find and follow. I say go do it if you’re feeling fit and ready for a good challenge or use it as a goal hike to get yourself motivated to get ready for!

I just read this hiking review of El Cajon Mountain in San Diego! Click To Tweet

Have you hiked this mountain? I’d love to hear about your experience!

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